Bright fairy lights, warm oil lamps, colorful powder designs, new clothes, sparkling jewelry, delicious sweets, savory snacks and firecrackers…all make the season of Diwali a joyous occasion. While the multi day festival has Hindu religious notes, it is also a secular cultural celebration in which Indians of all faiths participate.
Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the victory of good over evil, of hope over darkness. It is a reminder to observants to be good, kind and brave. There are many legends associated with Diwali with roots deep into Indian mythology of thousands of years ago.
Binny’s Diwali celebrates an Indian American girl’s desire to share her culture with her classmates, none of whom know about this festival.
Binny is excited and nervous about having to give a presentation about her favorite holiday. In the morning before school, she is pleased to dress up in a new Indian outfit, and she can’t wait for her friends to try out the special sweets of juicy jalebis and soft milky pedas, and the fun crafts she has in store for them.
But after Morning Meeting, when it is her turn to speak, she is tongue-tied. Her mind is blank. All that build-up of anticipation has come to nothing. But right before panic sets in, she remembers what her mother told her about the diyas, the colorful clay oil lamps that are set outside the front door to guide good luck into the home and banish away fear and darkness. By invoking the spirit of Diwali, Binny’s mind is suddenly overflowing with the joy of her story, which she conveys to her friends, who in turn catch the spirit of the festival.
It takes a lot of courage for a young girl to carry the weight of her culture on her shoulders, to be the ambassador to facilitate understanding of the stories and celebrations that make up who she is. Despite being apprehensive and anxious, Binny digs deep inside herself to find a well of grit and resilience that allows her to give an engaging presentation that is highly appreciated by her peers.
Both Umrigar and Chanani adore Diwali and their love shines through the words of this cheerful story and the evocative artwork. The cover, the gorgeous end papers, and all throughout, the book is a feast for the eyes. Umrigar and Chanani have come together in tandem to bring the ebullience of Binny alive for the reader while conveying how magical Diwali is.